Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Confederations Cup in South Africa 2009

Highveld Drifter.

Johannesburg .

I declined the offer of a small gun on my first evening in Johannesburg.

A satnav would have been more useful especially when negotiating the downtown area in the dark after an evening game.

The signs to the stadiums are reasonably prominent but the general city signage is very poor.

But the weather, during my week or so, was pleasant enough - it might be winter but it generally felt more like a typical English summer.

You see stadiums that are reasonably crowded considering this is not the World Cup though tickets were relatively expensive for the locals.

The atmosphere was, inevitably, noisy with the vuvuzelas (horns) a constant backdrop.


South Africa 0 Iraq 0 at Ellis Park.

Ellis Park is near to downtown Jo-burg and does need a bit of smartening up but it can generate some atmosphere.
Prior to kick-off we saw a fairly basic but effective opening ceremony followed by some speechs , first by a passionate Sepp Blatter, then briefly by president Jacob Zuma.
Perhaps more entertaining was the Mamas football game as seen in an advert on the large screen - very funny.

After a moderate, error strewn, first half the hosts picked up their play and dominated the defensive Iraqis.

But they couldn't score.

The crescendo came when Bafana Bafana nearly scored but for their own player stopping a shot on the goal line.

Head Homos.

Egypt 1 Italy 0 at Ellis Park.

Before the start they had been trying to cover the prominent bare patchs on the pitch.

Some 52,000 tickets had been sold for this one and both teams had their support though the locals favoured their fellow Africans.

A header by new man Homos (given man of the match) got the Egyptians their first ever win over World Cup holders Italy. He had covered plenty of Ellis Park - nearly 12km.

But it was their goalie El Hadary who produced some great saves to secure the win. Much as Italy tried , especially Iaquinta , they couldn't break through.


Pretoria is somewhat easier to negotiate than Jo-burg. Again it has a well established stadium, in a rugby hotbed, located near to the centre. Again it feels like it needs a bit of updating.

But the surroundings are OK with some restaurants/coffee outlets within a short walk.

Double Rossi.

Italy 3 USA 1 at Loftus Versfeld.

Italy had good support in the 34,000 at Loftus for their initial encounter with the USA. The Americans played most of the game with 10 men after having a man (harshly) sent off.
However they did score first through a Landon Donovan penalty.

It took the substitution of New Jersey born Guiseppi Rossi to change the game. His two goals, the first a cracker, and another great strike by de Rossi sealed the match for Italy.

Samba stroll.

USA 0 Brazil 3 at Loftus Versfeld.

A comfortable win for Brazil who started quickly with a goal by Felipe Melo. This was followed by a second from Robinho.
We sat back and enjoyed some Kaka magic.

The impressive Maicon clinched the victory in the second half.

Again the Americans suffered a sending off , not that it affected the result.

Italy fail to deliver.

Italy 0 Brazil 3 at Loftus Versfeld.

In this final group game Italy needed to at least equal the Egypt result to progress to the semi-finals. Thats what we thought - not expecting the turn of events that allowed USA to jump ahead of both.

So it was a lacklustre effort by the World champions - a game too far maybe.

A sellout crowd of around 41,000 mainly supported the Brazilians and they watched the yellow shirts score twice through Luis Fabiano and finish off with an own goal by Dossena.


Some 4 and a half hours down typically straight roads from Jo-burg is Bloemfontein

The Free State stadium is another enhancement of an existing structure.

Arguably the best atmsophere at this event was in this stadium with the local Celtic fans leading the singing and dancing that eventually circulated the stadium.
The vuvuzelas were less evident.
And the small groups of Spanish fans, along with other foreign visitors, enjoyed the occasion.

Just one is enough.

Spain 1 Iraq 0

Iraq parked the bus setting out to defend resolutely and hoping to pinch a goal.

They did the running - an average of 1km more per player than Spain.

It took the European champions 54 minutes to complete the victory with a Capdevilla cross being glanced in by David Villa.

That was enough.


Even farther away for a day trip Durban is some 6 hours each way from Jo-burg.

The test is to stay alert along the quiet roads amongst the early morning fog and the odd speed camera.


South Africa 26pts British & Irish Lions 21pts.

Compare and contrast : Rugby vs Football.

Large hospitality areas , cars parked close to the stadium, with barbecues set-up, as against a large cordon sanitaire at the Confederations Cup football games.

Jugs of beer for the larger rugby fans.

Plenty of red shirted Lions fans arriving in groups very prominent in the 47,000 crowd.

However there were significant numbers of empty seats due to the very high prices (around £85)

But the most significant clue came as I wandered around outside the stadium .

Here you could buy a receiver through which you could listen to the referee as he gave his decisions.

Within a minute of the start it was obvious why this was important as the first penalty mystified many including this inexperienced rugby watcher. The theme would continue with much play being shrouded in doubt.

The video replays too were hard to discern and often took ages to decide.

The Lions players themselves spent some time asking for clarification from the referee regarding his penalty decisions.

Football has far more clarity.

It also doesn't tend to produce the sort of one sided score that we saw in the first half. Even though the Lions did get back into the game in the second half to provide some late drama.

Apart from during the anthem (just one) the noise levels were moderate and the many Lions fans didn't seem to sing much.


So overall the time went well with some decent games in noisy, vibrant stadiums.

And the comparison with rugby proved once again that football provides the superior experience.

Clearly the challenges for 2010 will be to maintain a reasonable level of transport facilities and logistics to serve the much larger number of visitors. And keep them safe - at least from major incidents.

Unlike most World Cups a lot of this one will be experienced in the dark southern hemisphere winter.

As in most places in Africa you have to adapt to prosper.

But in the stadiums it will certainly be a World Cup to remember.

more pictures at

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